John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


“D”efining the Trump Presidency and Other Thoughts

Posted on October 19, 2017
(These are some notes from a little talk I gave at a conference in Chicago which I thought I would share with you.)

My first office job was just a couple blocks from here in Chicago Board of Trade Building, working for a commodities firm called Stotler and Company.  One summer, I got the chance to work in the Margins Department.  You want to see real pressure, work in the Margins Department.  

Speaking of pressure, Washington DC is feeling intense pressure from our new President.

When I think of what President Trump has brought to our Capitol City, I think of 6 D’s.

  • Disruption:  He is the most disruptive President in our nation’s history, more so than even Andrew Jackson.  He has never held political office, he has no real policy background, he doesn’t play by conventional rules and he won is a disruptive campaign that disturbed the space/time continuum.  

  • Distraction:  the President is a master of distraction.  Sometimes he does it on purpose, sometimes he does it unintentionally.  And we never know which is which.  He uses Twitter and his press conferences as a way to distract the media and entertain his supporters.

  • Dismantle:  The President and his team are intent on dismantling the regulatory state.  He has appointed people who are actively hostile to the mission of the agencies they head.  Scott Pruitt at EPA is a perfect example.  He has slow-walked the appointment of thousands of political employees because he doesn’t know what they do and he doesn’t want to waste taxpayer money.

  • Destroy: Using his pen and his phone, he is determined to destroy his predecessor’s legacy.  He has pulled out of the Paris Climate Treaty, he is starting the process of pulling out of the Iranian nuclear deal, he announced that he was ending the President’s executive order on DACA and he stopped the 7 billion in subsidies for Obamacare.  

  • Despair:  The President actions have caused deep despair among the media who hate him with a passion that far exceeds the antipathy felt towards Richard Nixon.  That despair is shared by Never Trumpers, Republicans who publicly refused to support him during the election and now condemn it every turn.  

  • Dystopia:  The echo chamber created by the Media, the Never Trumpers and the Media have painted a picture of dystopian Washington that at times looks like it is veering towards a fascist dictatorship and other times looks like a malevolent version of the keystone cops.  

To answer your questions directly, I think the President is putting all of his marbles into completing a pro-growth tax cut/tax reform bill that will significantly decrease taxes on corporations and most pass-throughs, give middle-class Americans a significant tax cut and give little in real tax relief to most of you, at least on the individual side.  I think he will succeed in that endeavor and I think that it will be a Christmas present for the American people.  Most of the final bill is already drafted.  They now just have to fit the pieces together.

The President made mention of an economic development package at his epic press conference earlier this week.  The Majority Leader wasn’t read in on it, which is ironic because the Secretary of Transportation is married to the Leader and you would think she would give him a heads up.  

Two other items could be completed before March.  By stopping the Obamacare subsidies and by ending the DACA program, the President is putting intense pressure on Democrats who care about both of these programs to come to the table and start bargaining on bigger immigration package and broader fixes to Obamacare.  I don’t know where the border wall fits into the end of the year negotiations, but I imagine the President will continue to harp on it.

The President’s relationship with Congress is, well, complicated.   Steve Bannon has made it more complicated by announcing a well-funded campaign to fire Mitch McConnell.  

Bob Corker clearly doesn’t respect this President.  John McCain hates him.  Jeff Flake wrote a book called Conscience of a Conservative condemning him.  

And yet Republicans and Donald Trump are kind of like Thelma and Louise.  They are going to drive off the cliff together, especially if they don’t get tax reform done.  

As a Republican, I am bullish on the prospects for the midterms.  

As long as Steve Bannon is unsuccessful at placing unelectable candidates in winnable seats, I think the Republicans will do fine.  

Here is my thinking.  The Senate map is overwhelmingly in the GOP’s favor.  There are 8 Democratic Senators who are representing states won by Donald Trump, like Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, North Dakota and Florida.  

The House Republican map is similarly redistricted in such a way as to favor the GOP.   Yes, midterm elections are usually really bad for the party in power, but that is more true for Democrats than it is for Republicans.  2010, 1994, 1966 were really bad for the Democrats.  Yes, 1974 was bad for Republicans when we had Watergate, as was 1982 when we had a terrible recession, but they gained seats in 1992 and broke even in 2002.  

So I am not as worried about Republicans losing the House or the Senate.  

Could it happen?  Sure, we can have a terrible recession or the Republicans could stupidly try to impeach the President, but I don’t think either is very likely.  

Talking about impeachment, if Democrats make that their campaign theme, they will lose seats.  I remember when we made impeaching Bill Clinton our campaign theme in 1998, and it backfired completely.  

I think the Republicans and their outside groups will run against Democratic obstructionism, what we used to call the do-nothing Democrats.  

The Democrats will run a campaign based on the idea that there needs to be a check on the President and his extremism.  

I don’t know if the President is an extremist.  A disruptor yes.  An extremist?  I don’t think so.  

Could there be a backlash against the President's tweets and other off-key comments?  Perhaps, but I think that if the economy continues to grow, if pro-growth tax cuts are implemented, if the DACA situation can be resolved with a healthy measure of border security and if the health care exchanges can be stabilized, Republicans will be in a strong position to maintain their majorities and the President will be in a very strong position to campaign for his reelection.